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A scene of the hungry press from 'La dolce vita' (1960) by Federico Fellini
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Col·lecció de Christoph Schifferli, Zuric, Copy rights reserved
Federico Fellini i la trampa, 1955
Federico Fellini, one of Italy’s most influential 20th-century film-makers, understood the power of the cinematic image. His icons spilled off screen, assaulting the audience with imagery too exaggerated, too sexy and too familiar to ignore. Self-referential, Fellini’s signature films reacted to the ‘here and now’ of his epoch, combining a dogmatic critique with a submissive reverence for popular culture. Fellini also sought self-realisation via film-making, obsessing over themes of religion, female sexuality and cultural subversion that permeated, even plagued, his subconscious. His combination of public and private resulted in films simultaneously voyeuristic and realistic.
CaixaForum’s spectacular Fellini retrospective ‘El circ de les il·lusions’ (The circus of illusions) pays primary attention to the relationship between Fellini’s public image and the internal-external world in which he lived. It portrays a Fellini chronology, illustrating the evolution of his prolific work in film with objects from his oeuvre and influences, and provides a backdrop to the depths of Fellini. An exhaustive exhibition, it is also well-crafted, providing enough breaks with short film excerpts, newspaper clippings and beautiful photographs to keep both the Fellini expert thrilled and the Fellini novice engaged.
In particular, the show stresses a symbiotic link between Fellini and mass media. Sam Stourdzé, exhibition curator, points to the importance of the time at which Fellini emerged, when mass media and cinema simultaneously became distributors of image. Fellini created film stars whose fame lived on screen, well aware that paparazzi madness took over off screen. He responded to a public glamour fever, appropriating scenes already tabloid famous. Imagine Anita Ekberg writhing shoeless with Marcello Mastroianni in Rome’s Trevi Fountain. The celebrated scene from the wicked and indulgent La Dolce Vita (1960) is in fact a romantic adaptation of a fashion shoot featuring Ekberg from 1958. Fellini’s scene became unforgettable, an icon of romance that infiltrated the subconscious of the Sixties.
Indeed, the exhibit highlights the relationship Fellini had with many popular culture outlets that emerged in his lifetime, including television and rock’n’roll. But, it is perhaps Fellini’s personal preoccupations with women, sex and the Catholic church that make his vision most uncompromising, and most gawk-worthy. The closing portion of the CaixaForum exhibition underscores his extraordinary world with a selection of drawings Fellini culled from his dreams. Not surprisingly, buxom, domineering women and religious iconography abound. The drawings read like film sketches. Which is to say, the man lived as he created, shading the borders between his lived reality, his dreamt one and the one he invented.
Sara gave this show five stars out of five.
Federico Fellini. El circ de les il·lusions: CaixaForum; until June 13th; www.fundacio.lacaixa.es